How to Remove Mold from Shoes: Tips That Actually Work

Shoes that show signs of mold are not only disheartening but frustrating. No one wants to wear moldy shoes, so, how do you remove mold from shoes?

How to Remove Mold from Shoes

Mold can grow on shoes that don’t dry out well or that are kept in places with a lot of moisture. Keep in mind that mold stains cannot always be removed. Here we will go over the steps to take to remove mold from shoes:

Step 1. Air Dry Completely

If possible, remove the inner soles of the shoes and throw them away. Place the shoes in a ventilated, dry area and allow them to dry completely.

How to remove mold from shoes

Step 2. Find a Very Small Scrub Brush

Once the shoes are dried thoroughly and with a dry scrub brush, scrub the inside of the shoes to loosen any mold and mold spores. A toothbrush could work if you can’t find a scrub brush small enough.

Holding each shoe inside down, knock them against something hard to encourage the loose mold to fall out of the shoes.

Step 3. Get Out the Vinegar

Some may suggest using bleach, and that’s fine if your shoes are white. Bleach does kill mold, but vinegar does, too. Here we will recommend using white, undiluted vinegar. And no worries, as when vinegar dries completely you can’t smell it.

If you do decide to use a bleach solution on your shoes, mix one gallon of hot water and one cup of bleach and use that to clean the shoes. Just be aware that if your shoes aren’t white, this may not be a good idea.

Step 4. Time to Clean

Using a damp clean cloth, clean both the outside and the inside of the shoes. An added benefit of using the vinegar is that vinegar will demolish any mold or mildew smell, or any other off-putting smell for that matter, from your shoes.

Step 5. Drying Time

Allow the shoes to dry completely in a well-ventilated place in the home. Don’t forget to run to the store and buy new shoe inserts. Just make sure you don’t put them inside of the shoes before the shoes are 100% dry.

To give your shoes a drying headstart, try using a dry clean, soft cloth and paper towels to absorb some of the moisture from the shoes before setting them aside to air dry.

How to Remove Mold from Suede Shoes

To remove mold from suede shoes, ensure that the mold has not penetrated the fabric and is instead on the surface of the suede. Light mold growth and its surface stains may be effectively removed by using a suede brush, plain white vinegar that kills the mold, and a bristle brush.

Follow the steps below to remove mold from suede shoes:

Step 1. Find Newspaper

Granted, newspapers aren’t as common in a household as they used to be. If you’re able to find some, newspaper works great for stuffing inside of suede shoes to provide some resistance against the brush.

Step 2. It’s Time to Brush

You’ll need a suede brush. If you don’t already have one, a suede brush can be purchased at almost any local department store. Brush the shoes with the brush in the same direction several times, then change directions and brush repeatedly in that new direction.

Step 3. Vinegar Kills Mold

Vinegar is not only safe on suede, but it also kills mold and is a natural odor eliminator. Dip a nylon brush in white vinegar and clean the affected mold spots on the suede. Allow to dry, and then use the suede brush.

To speed up the drying process, use a dry clean cloth or paper towels and dab any excess moisture off of the shoes before setting them aside to dry.

Don’t be alarmed if your shoes seem to have shrunken a bit after they dry. Wearing the shoes again will help them to stretch back out.

What Causes Mold on Shoes?

Mold on shoes may be caused by an excess of moisture in the air where the shoes are kept. Moldy shoes may also happen when shoes have gotten very wet and were not allowed to air dry properly. Slightly damp shoes placed in a humid closet will likely become moldy, as mold thrives in those conditions.

Is Mold on Shoes Dangerous?

According to the CDC, mold can cause many health ailments. Some people may suffer relatively mild, allergy-like mold symptoms, such as the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Stuffy nose

For those with lung diseases like asthma, COPD, and other serious illness, more serious symptoms can occur:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing accompanied by bloody phlegm

Lung infections in those with immune deficiencies have occurred with exposure to mold.

How to Prevent Mold on Shoes in a Closet

To prevent mold on shoes in a closet, steps must be taken to eliminate the moisture levels in the closet. Ventilation, using a dehumidifier, disinfecting closet walls, using light to dry the air, and not putting damp shoes or clothes in your closet are steps one can take to eliminate mold on shoes.

We will go over things you can do to get rid of moisture in your closet that causes mold:

  • Use light to help dry the air
  • Clean the walls of your closet
  • Use a dehumidifier
  • Avoid storing wet clothing in the closet
  • Encourage airflow

Use a Light to Help Dry the Air

Leaving a light on in your closet during the day while you’re at work and then turning it off when you get home contributes to dryer air in your closet. Bulbs that are between 60 and 100 watts are preferred. Just make sure the light bulb is not close to anything that may start a fire.

Clean the Walls of Your Closet

If you know that there has been mold in your closet or condensation on your closet walls, you will want to reach for the vinegar. Remove everything from your closet so that you can access the walls.

Spray full-strength, non-diluted vinegar onto your closet walls. Let the vinegar sit for an hour and then wipe it down with a sponge.

And don’t worry, vinegar is a natural deodorizer. You won’t smell the vinegar once it dries and has been aired out.

Use a Dehumidifier

Mold can grow in a closet when there are elevated levels of moisture in the air, also referred to as humidity. When humidity levels are not controlled, mold will likely flourish, especially in an enclosed closet. Dehumidifiers help by pulling moisture out of the air and lowering humidity.

The type of dehumidifier you will need for your closet will depend on your closet size. For smaller closets with no plugin, you have a couple of different options.

One option could be to use a dehumidifier that will work for your entire bedroom. This would require that you leave your closet door open to allow proper ventilation.

Your second option for a smaller closet when you would prefer the neat-and-tidy look of keeping the closet doors closed is to invest in a cordless dehumidifier to be used inside of your closet.

When you have a bigger closet with plugs, you have more options because you can easily plug in a dehumidifier.

Avoid Storing Wet Clothing in the Closet

If you’re like me, you don’t like the look of your wet clothing hanging outside for all to see. Sure, sunshine and fresh air on clean clothes can’t be beat, but I’m not hanging my clothes that cannot be put in the dryer outside. Ain’t happening.

Rather than hanging your wet clothes in your closet and increasing the moisture levels that create mold, try finding an alternative place such as in or near your laundry area.

Encourage Airflow

Although it may look more put-together, allowing air to circulate inside of your closet by leaving a closet door open will help so that moisture does not accumulate so easily inside of your closet.

Mold and mildew thrive in moist, humid environments, and a closed closet keeps the humid environment intact, welcoming mold with open arms.

If you’re too embarrassed for anyone to see inside of your messy closet, closet organizers can be purchased that not only provide a means of organization but also enable you to store more items.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.